Glimpses: San Diego and the Pacific Surfliner to Irvine
Best quote on San Diego:
“….. Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means a whale’s vagina.”
” No, there’s no way that’s correct.”…….. “Doesn’t it mean Saint Diego?”
” No. No. ”
” No, that’s – that’s what it means. Really. ”
” Agree to disagree. “
Exchange between Ron Burgundy and Veronica Corningstone in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, a passably funny, if silly, movie.
Impressions: Even though I have been to San Diego only twice, it is among my favorite cities and a place I would love to settle in if it wasn’t so damn expensive. Among the positives for the city: a harbor-front downtown (The Gaslamp District) with eclectic mix of restaurants and entertainment, lovely beaches in the northern part of the city (e.g La Jolla), good public transport system and of course, the weather. Especially having left Raleigh with the mercury hovering around 16F, being able to eat lunch on the open patio dressed in just a T-shirt, was a change most welcome.
San Diego is also a great place for attending a conference. Since the Convention Center is located right next to the bay area, any time you feel bored with the talks and the posters, simply step outside and soak up the sun while staring out at the sea. Or, walk a few steps and enjoy the sea closer from Embarcadero Parks or Seaport Village. This time it was extra sweet since we got to stay at the Marriott Marina in a room with a sea-facing balcony (see pictures below). The side-walks running behind the hotel and the Convention Center also provides an excellent track for the early morning jog – they take you past some of the beautiful ships-turned-museums along the harbor.
San Diego is also great for airplane-lovers and plane-spotters. The airport is located right next to the downtown and you can get really stunning close-up views of the planes as they land. The landing experience when you are on the plane is quite unique too. When the pilot makes his touch-down announcement (about 15 minutes prior to landing), all you see below is barren deserts, followed by mountains and then of a sudden, you are smack in the downtown looking at high rise buildings !
Food & Drink: You can’t really go wrong with the Mexican food here. Short of crossing over to Tijuana (which you can do on foot from the southern part of the city, though not recommended unless you are carrying proper papers !), you will probably get some of the best Mexican food in San Diego. For the entire week, I subsisted mostly on Fajitas of different kinds, along with Santa Fe omelette’s and such other southwestern delicacies.
We ate both in downtown and in Old Town; the latter had several restaurants that proclaimed to have been voted the best Mexican Food in town. In downtown, The Rockin’ Baja is recommended, even if it is a chain. If anything, they had gigantic portions, the unlimited salsa bar was fabulous, with six-seven different salsas, and a wonderful Sunday brunch menu.
Additionally, we had pretty good Thai food at Royal Thai, located downtown, usually topping off the evenings with Ghirardeli’s ice-cream.
The best Margaritas during the trip were to be had at this restaurant in Palm Springs called Las Casuelas. Their top-shelf Margarita is strong enough to be limited to three per person and they had a huge tequila selection.
We also went into Dick’s Last Resort where the shtick is that the waiters/waitresses are supposed to be rude to you – going as far as swearing at you. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed this time – our waitress was too nice to us. Our theory is that she was perhaps being politically correct with a group that included an Indian, a Chinese and a Japanese with the token Caucasian American thrown in. So the question is – were we being racially discriminated here ? Should we have tipped her less, due to lack of appropriate rudeness ? The food (chicken wings and nachos), served in baskets and duly plonked down on our table was good (though overpriced IMO).
We missed a trick by not going into The Fields early in our trip – its a quaint Irish pub in the downtown area. One should go in as much for the atmosphere as for the great selection of beers, Irish Whiskeys and Scotch.
My first train experience in the USA: I took the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to Irvine, CA. This is an Amtrak service that runs several times daily between San Diego and Los Angeles. The double-decker train with only four-five cars, was really comfortable and the views, as we hugged the Pacific were spectacular (see pictures below). There is something novel about having a cold beer while riding a train and watching the ocean.
Finally, if you ever happen to be in Orange County, CA (where Irvine is located) don’t miss the Persian food. There is a large population of Persian immigrants settled in the area, leading to an abundance of Persian grocery stores and restaurants. The eateries range from simple hole-in-the-wall mom-&-pop to elegant fine dining establishments. We had dinner at Caspian, and even after a week, the succulent taste of the Soltani still lingers on my tongue.
Pictures – not too many I am afraid from this leg of the trip. A few snaps from the balcony of my hotel-room; also of and from the train.
Sun-set reflected against hotel building:
Sun-rise and the Coronado Bridge in the distance:
Coronado Bridge at night:
San Diego train station:
The Pacific Surfliner:
Views from the train:
Coming up: Joshua Tree – hiking the desert mountains !